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Minnesota Gopher Football 2011 Spring Game Preview

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Saturday will be a bittersweet day for Gopher football fans. It'll be great because it's the 2011 spring game, and we'll get a better idea of what Coach Kill's squad will look like in action this fall. On the other hand, after Saturday it's going to be 131 LONG days until the first game of the season Sept 3 against USC. The weather Saturday will probably feel a lot like a fall game day, as we're expecting high's in the mid 50's with a chance of showers at around "kickoff" (there won't be a kickoff, but still) at 1pm.

This will be my first chance to see the Gopher this spring, since my work schedule hasn't allowed me to sneak away to any of the weekday practices. I know, not a good excuse, but what can I say? Anywho, we've talked and read and seen and covered a LOT about Gopher football these past three weeks, but this will be my first chance to see this stuff up close and personal. Here's some things I'll be watching for from wherever I'll be sitting at The Bank:

IT ALL STARTS WITH #5

He's been the talk of practice all spring, and I just peed my pants a little in excitement thinking about seeing him in anything even remotely resembling game action. Ok that may have been a little "TMI" as the kids would say, but I can't help- I love me some MarQueis Gray. By now you know the story: the offseason work ethic, the leadership, the ridiculous ability. Now we'll get a chance to see how it all comes together. We know he's dangerous when he runs the ball, but how's he going to look throwing under pressure?

HOW WELL DOES THE OFFENSE MOVE THE BALL?

The defense has pretty much dominated the offense thus far in anything resembling a scrimmage situation. Not unexpected considering there's usually a much steeper learning curve for the offense than defense under a new coaching staff. There's also the fact the Gophs' return almost their entire front seven and most of their secondary from a year ago, while the offense has to replace three starters on the line, two at wideout (counting a slot receiver), and one QB. I love the potential for so many of our offensive players, so I'm interested to see how far along they look.

PAGING GE'SHUN HARRIS

Mr. Harris...Mr. Harris...your moment has arrived. Sure, you can say it's only the spring game, and success in these things often don't translate to success when the games starting counting in the fall. But still, both Da'Jon McKnight AND Eric Lair won't be playing, and those two accounted for just about all the catches last year for returning players. So there's going to be a big opportunity for Harris, or someone, to step up in the eyes of the coaches and fans. Harris has great size and some pretty good ability, but has not locked down the #2 wideout spot. We've been waiting all spring for him to do it, so maybe he saves the best for last?

WHO ELSE WILL CATCH PASSES?

On offense, that is. The defense has had little trouble catching passes not intended for them, but I want to see who else, along with Harris, can step up. Freshman Marcus Jones has received almost as much attention for his breakout spring as a slot receiver, and with the big guns out, I imagine he'll get plenty of opportunity to strut his stuff. Victor Hoise has been the guy thus far to replace Da'Jon while injured, and we'll see who else does something.

HOW BIG ARE JONATHAN RAGOO AND RA'SHEDE HAGEMAN?

And Moses Alipate. From the descriptions I've read about Ragoo, I'm expecting him to look about 8 feet tall and 700 pounds. We discussed Alipate's, um, "largeness" in the Nugz this morning, and Hageman is just a hulk of a human being. For that matter I also want to see how small Chase Haviland looks, who is generously listed at 5'9 and 184. Despite his stature, Kill has talked up the walk-on from Thief River Falls, so it'll be fun to see him flying around the secondary.

More after the jump...

WILL GARY TINSLEY PLAY EXCLUSIVELY IN THE MIDDLE?

DC Tracy Claeys made it sound like Tinsley, our leading tackler from last year, might not even start. He's missed time due to injury and said earlier this week he's going to play at middle, which for now means as a backup to Brendan Beal. Keanon Cooper and Mike Rallis (and a few other guys) have all played well on the outside, but are they REALLY so good they can keep Tinsley from starting? I do remember reading that Claeys does like to sub a lot, and he said both Beal and Tinsley will play as much as they can handle, but I still feel like that when the Gophers need a big stop, there can only be three linebackers out there, and you can't have two middles. So who's it going to be?

WHO'S GETTING TRUCKED BY TROY STOUDERMIRE?

Stoudermire has been lighting up Gopher pass catchers all spring like his own personal Christmas tree. He doesn't care if they're his teammates, Troy is thumping whoever he can get to who either caught the ball or is trying to catch it. And it doesn't matter the size- TE Collin McGarry goes 6'4 and 252, and Troy laid him out.

DB'S NOT NAMED STOUDERMIRE OR ROYSTON

I had the audacity to list the secondary as my 2nd most worrisome position group (apparently a few of you fine folks had them as the runaway winner of group that you lose sleep over), and I'm hoping to see something from a defensive back not wearing Stoudermire's #11 or Royston's #6 that gives me some hope. Again, it's only the spring game, but I really need to see something to make feel better about these guys, because after this I've got four long months to worry about it before the USC game.

COACH KILL'S FIRE

Last, but certainly not least, is the new head man. I've heard about it, I've read about it, and I've seen it on video, but more than anything (well except for watching Q) I cannot wait to see Jerry Kill in person Saturday. He's demonstrative, aggressive and will be in the face of everybody and anybody who he thinks deserves it. The man knows football, and he only knows how to coach it one way. Can't wait to see him in action at the spring game.

So there's a quick list of things I'm looking forward to seeing on Saturday. Feel free to add your own in the comments, and I hope to see you Saturday at 1pm at The Bank! Go Gophers! SKI! U! MAH!